The 2 Major Ways Parents Make Their Kids Into Narcissists

How we get it wrong when we're trying to get it right.

Two ways parents make their kids narcissists, do no wrong, over praise, Serhii Yevdokymov, ABBPhoto | Canva

Nobody said parenting was easy, and raising emotionally stable kids is even harder. As parents, we are terrified of messing up and having our children come out emotionally destructive. One of the worst outcomes most parents can imagine is that their child becomes a narcissist. But is that an outcome we can prevent?

On the podcast Open Relationships: Transforming Together, host Andrea Miller and psychologist Dr. Stan Tatkin, author of Wired for Love: How Understanding Your Partner's Brain and Attachment Style Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build a Secure Relationship, discuss the two major ways parents can unintentionally turn their children into full-blown narcissists.


Two ways kids become narcissists due to parenting

1. They learn how to control and manipulate worshipful parents

The greatest lesson you need to learn as a parent is how to stand up to your children. Learning when to put your foot down and say, "Deal or no deal."


However, what happens when we refuse to give our children consequences?

Tatkin says, "What happens when you don't follow through? When you don't stand up? To me, I lose respect for you."

Your child grows to view you as both weak and incompetent. Then, they'll begin to respect you less as they learn they can control and manipulate your actions.

Known as the "second coming," this is when children can do no wrong in the eyes of their parents. This may be because they are deemed the golden child, or because the parent doesn't have a realistic sense of where they end and their child begins.

Tatkin explains, "They live through their child and they won't say no, and they won't give them consequences." They don't know how to say, "Here are the limits that allow both safety and freedom."


Tatkin continues, "And, and then I [as the child] start to press the limits. I start to think I'm very powerful. I, I begin to think the rules don't apply to me. And so that's a natural outcome from this petri dish that is childhood."

RELATED: Why Your "Confident" Kid Is Actually Arrogant (Mine Was Too)

How to break this cycle:

To begin changing you need to start showing your child the consequences of their actions. "You need to show your child the unfriendly side of the world in a child-friendly way," says Tatkin. Show them the natural consequences of their actions and hold them responsible for breaking rules or being disrespectful, in age-appropriate ways.


In addition, model empathy with boundaries. Show empathy for how they feel, ask them to show empathy for you, and model showing empathy for others and expect the same from them.

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2. Overly harsh parenting

Being an overly harsh or authoritarian parent, one who is inflexible and cold, can also contribute to a child becoming a narcissist.

Do you consider your child's feelings? Can your child make sense of their own feelings? If they can't, then they'll likely spend their whole life stomping over others because they have no empathy or respect.

This is why your parenting style requires a delicate balance between love and strictness. And if you're looking for a way to balance the two, trying an authoritative style of parenting is your best bet and resist being authoritarian. Yes, these terms are very similar but are very different in practice — with dramatically different outcomes for children.


According to the American Psychological Association, "In [the authoritative] parenting style, the parents are nurturing, responsive, and supportive, yet set firm limits for their children. They attempt to control children's behavior by explaining rules, discussing, and reasoning. They listen to a child's viewpoint but don't always accept it."

@yourtango How does attachment theory work? Researcher and therapist Stan Tatkin explains on the latest episode of our podcast, 'Open Relationships', available now #attachmenttheory #therapist #podcast #relationship ♬ original sound- YourTango

Just like with anything in life, there needs to be a balance. And the reality is, you can't expect your child to respect you if you don't rise and become a leader worth respecting. On the flip side, you can't expect your child to be emotionally secure if you haven't even worked through your own issues.

There's more to your child developing narcissistic behavior than this. Plenty of kids learn how to manipulate their parents and only face minor emotional issues later. But these two parenting styles can cause serious harm to children, regardless of whether they end up developing Narcissim, and it's worth finding the balance that will help your kids thrive and be good citizens.


RELATED: If Your Child Is A Narcissist, You Probably Used This Bad Parenting Tactic

Marielisa Reyes is a writer with a bachelor's degree in psychology who covers self-help, relationships, career, and family topics.